words and photos by Dipal Khatri, translated by Ann Lee
119-1, JingShan Rd, Yangmingshan
MRT: JianTan Station
(02) 2862-0178 / 2862-0179
Hours: 11 am-3 pm, 5-9 pm (closed Monday)
Credit cards accepted. 10% service charge.
Walking shoeless down the wooden hall and onto the straw mat floor here is like entering a spa. This Buddhist vegetarian restaurant offers a Zen-like environment that pampers and soothes the digestive system with light, healthy dishes.
The minimalist, dark wood and straw interior is given a splash of color with bright pumpkins and bananas on each table. Tables are separated by thin blinds for privacy. The tranquil ambiance extends outside into its garden, which is full of statues interspersed among the greenery. Visitors can sit at outdoor stone tables to soak in the meditative atmosphere.
Yangming has no menu, only two set meals: the eight-course Pearl Lady's (NT$880) and the ten-course Royal Truffle (NT$1,280). Dishes are changed every two to three weeks. Angelica Keiskei Koidzumi Herbal Tea and Herbal Juice, a Yangmingshan specialty made of grass and fresh fruit juices, is served and afternoon diners are also offered a range of teas, including Ming Ri Ye tea, which is sweet and also cultivated in Yangmingshan.
Established two months ago, their speciality is the flourish with which course after course is served. Dishes are decorated with flowers and plants from their gardens. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Chen, choose produce from Yangmingshan and around Taiwan. Food is cooked without garlic, onion and oil, according to Buddhist beliefs, and is stewed or boiled rather than fried.
After washing hands in an earthen finger bowl of water, rose petals and lemon, diners can savor the Kaiseki Delicate Appetizers tray, with four selections that range from sweet and soft aloe with strawberry to crunchy cucumber with passion fruit seeds. That is followed by the Natural Vinegar Beverage, an icy cup of lavender, plum, or passion fruit vinegar with a tangy taste that aids with digestion and served from a wooden box of ice. Next is a Western-style Tomato Asparagus Cheese Ravioli with French bread and potato patty with golden kiwifruit filling.
A more traditional dish is Chinese Yam Noodle, made with hair-like strands of Chinese yam topped with gold foil and accompanied by seaweed sauce. Green Bamboo Shoots in White Sauce, baked with a rich and creamy sauce, oozes indulgence, while the crown jewel of the Royal Truffle meal is the chewy Royal King Oyster Mushroom Clay Pot garnished with ginkgo, broccoli and French truffles. The Pearl Lady's meal uses similar ingredients cooked differently.
Meals are rounded off with fruit and a refreshing dessert of sweet taro with snow lotus herbs and honey placed in a large metal bowl of crushed ice.